The introduction of this new orientation in linguistics focusing on the languages of Europe so far has gone unnoticed by the general public. Eurolinguistics is a new term for a new discipline in linguistics. Its foremost goal is recognition of the common characteristics in European languages (Europeanisms). These include, for example, structures and rules, idioms/phraseology, metaphors, semantic borrowings and lexical items — all of which have come about through the mediation of bilingual and multilingual individuals in the course of more than a millennium and a half within a common European cultural and historical framework. These linguistic similarities have evolved through contacts between the peoples of Europe and given rise to a convergence of cultural trajectories and to a common European heritage. Dominant nationalistic movements, chauvinism and inadequate concepts concerning language and ethnic origin have obscured this linked heritage from the peoples of Europe.
Commentary to the Pushkin Theses
The task of Eurolinguistics, therefore, is to make these characteristics of the historically evolved languages and cultures on the European continent transparent by means of new methods of contact linguistics, ethnology and historical research. (cf. Theses 5 and 6 in The Pushkin Manifesto). By making young Europeans conscious of their common heritage ELAMA hopes to be able to contribute to a new European identity under the motto ”Europe is our home” (cf. Theses 7 and 8). The lack of such a European identity, in both the younger and older generations of today, is striking and alarming.
National educational systems such as secondary schools, high schools and even universities offer few or no perspectives at all into ”Spracheuropa.” They are not prepared conceptually or equipped materially for such a task (cf. Theses 9 and 10). However, instead of opening new institutes of Europe-wide education for young Europeans, departments of general linguistics are being closed down (e.g. in the 1990s in Tübingen, Heidelberg and Mannheim (2002)). The most grotesque example of this wave of closures of linguistic institutes is the closing of the Institute of Balkan Studies at the Free University of Berlin during the height of the Bosnian War. Linguistics is not the only target of such policy. Established European subjects like Latin, Greek, Slavic languages ( partially), archaeology and geography/geology (in Mannheim) are cancelled in an ill-conceived cutback policy, which constitutes a regression from long-held educational goals. These fiscal policies counteract the idea of Europe as a whole for future generations at a time when it is necessary to think European. Eurolinguistics is a reaction against this negative trend towards provincialism and narrow-mindedness that makes dangerously little sense when one considers what will be necessary for the future.
Eurolinguistics will help to carry out research on a series of topics that include European minority and regional languages (cf. Thesis 11). It will also promote the resolution of cultural, religious and political conflicts through understanding by serving peace research (cf. Thesis 12). A Europe-oriented programme must be a goal in the education of young Europeans from primary schools to universities, the latter of which are mainly nationally oriented (cf. Thesis 13).
The extensive migrations and movements of peoples from one corner of Europe to another urgently calls for multilingual programmes in European schools and workplaces. These programmes will help to train and accommodate bilingual migrating Europeans, and their children, who are quintessentially European in the fullest sense. Their bicultural and bilingual competence is an enormous asset to the European identification process (cf. Thesis 14).
After the turn of the millennium, the bilingual and multilingual competence of young Europeans are of utmost importance to the cultural development of Europe. Such competence creates a future humanistic basis for the European Union following the economic and political union, which will have been accomplished in the first decade of the 21st century. This is why Eurolinguistics places the multilingual individual at the centre of research (cf. Theses 1 and 2) and studies the effects of multilingualism in both the past and present. By studying and elaborating the contact typologies of European languages (cf. Thesis 3), we help to map the historical, social and economic factors of the past and thereby better understand the situations of the present (cf. Thesis 4).
Acquisition of Eurolinguistic literature
Aside from these efforts to continue a series of symposia and annually organized “European Weeks” on Eurolinguistics as initiated by ELAMA is also concerned with another issue of great importance: the acquisition of linguistic literature (cf. e.g. the “Europäische Wochen” organized by ELAMA in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
As early as the first ELAMA meeting in January 1999, the financing of Eurolinguistic literature was discussed as an important goal. This is essential in these days of heavy cutbacks at West German universities and especially vital at the linguistic and language departments and faculties in the East European countries (Poland, Lithuania and Russia), where the precarious financial situation and grave currency problems make it almost impossible to buy new books on linguistics. Provided economic resources are available, ELAMA and ELA could be instrumental in trying to find funding to acquire new linguistic literature for these universities and also to assist East European institutions in finding scholarships and grants for interested and gifted students. Exchange programmes between East- and West-European universities and universities overseas that promote Europe-oriented studies and research are vitally important — especially in a number of newly founded national states in the Eastern and Southern Europe, which currently are ridden by nationalistic and chauvinistic thinking.
Against a rephilologisation of linguistics
However, the present situation at the majority of German universities does not hold much promise for these programme goals. In the days of scarce financial means, there is a trend towards cancelling chairs of general linguistics for the benefit of national philological interests. Here ELAMA sees an urgent task to preserve the Europe-wide perspective maintained in its Eurolinguistic programme for a future student generation as formulated in the Pushkin Manifesto. In the days of Europeanisation and globalisation in economics and politics, such a cutback policy at the cost of Europe-oriented goals in the humanities seems particularly ill-timed and unacceptable. To counteract the development towards a rephilologisation of linguistics, the introduction of a Europe-wide scope was one of the more important motivations for founding ELAMA and building a pressure-group to save linguistics from becoming a provincially narrow-minded, nationalistic discipline confined to the backwaters left by a cutback policy.